The Underrated: I, Lucifer

I was going to hold off reviewing this book for a while. However, Mrs. Jarv in a wonderfully useless move that got me out of watching SATC2 managed to lose my copy (4th one I’ve bought now), so in sheer celebration I’m going to write this from memory. I know this book extremely well, so have no qualms about taking a gamble and writing it without it sitting in front of me.

I, Lucifer is Glenn Duncan (revoltingly talented bastard) at his finest. The story goes, and I’m not sure how true it is, that he was terminally blocked while writing Weathercock. He was miles behind schedule and the publishing house got on his back about it- so to stall them he wrote I, Lucifer in 2 weeks. 2 Weeks! Bastard. On one hand, I’d like that to be true (and I, Lucifer destroys Weathercock), but on the other, well, it’s just not fair.

It’s the end of days. God (described as looking exactly like a grumpy old man) has decided that he’s going to wrap the whole shebang up. However, given that the end really is nigh, he’s going to give Lucifer one final chance, one last and completely unearned shot at redemption. All Lucifer has to do is inhabit the body of suicidal Declan Gunn and not commit a mortal sin. Lucifer, however, doesn’t want anything to do with this, but would quite like a crack in the corporeal realm for a bit so agrees to take Gunn’s body for 1 month. I, Lucifer is the account of that month.

I, Lucifer is narrated by Satan himself and uses this simple story to tell his side of things. The book has a couple of pages of plot, then a couple of pages of reminiscing about various subjects (Eden, The Temptation, the crucifixion, witch trials, the Final Solution etc) that link together seamlessly. Lucifer’s viewpoint (while completely unreliable) is also completely plausible, and far more intelligent than it’s pretending to be. Take the temptation for example- Lucifer complains bitterly that the official account makes him look “myopic” and so resolves to tell what actually happened. He brilliantly dismisses the Biblical version (when disregarding the third temptation, all the kingdoms of earth, he says that he may as well “have offered the entire pokemon collection” to Jesus) and instead counters with what Christ’s real weakness was: doubt. As a result, instead of offering bread etc, he simply shows Jesus a summary of the next 2000 years and asks him if it will be worth it? Jesus wavers, but God is having none of this so breaks it up, leaving Jesus to conclude with” I’m going through with it, so just fuck off will you”. I find Satan’s account of the temptation damned convincing- why would Satan offer Jesus all the Kingdoms of Earth? it doesn’t make sense at all. However, I can see Jesus occasionally wondering if this being nailed to a cross business might not hurt a wee bit and therefore might not be worth it for a species as hell-bent on self-destruction as humanity.

Furthermore, these interludes actually allow a fair bit of philosophy on the nature of evil to slip through- he finishes his account of the crucifixion with a description of a lynch mob at a paedophile’s house and concludes with “look into their eyes and that’s where you’ll find me”.

As fun as Lucifer’s metaphysical ramblings are, the novel would collapse if his Earthly time wasn’t every bit as interesting. Given that he spends it doing a frightening amount of booze, drugs and hookers then it’s no surprise that it’s an excellent read. On his first day in Gunn’s body, Lucifer doesn’t actually manage to make it out of the house, due to being utterly mugged by perception, and quite unable to resist wanking. All day. Hilarious stuff. He moves on to the movie biz (through using Satanic powers and connections) and behaves in his own words “like a Sunderland lottery winner in Harrods”.

As already mentioned, Lucifer narrates the novel, and this is no mean trick. The Satan persona is charming, erudite and witty. He comes across as sincere and irreverent and laces his narrative with enough comic asides to keep even the most sceptical reader happy- the description of the London Underground getting God down is an absolute gem of comic writing. The supporting characters (although this is obviously Satan’s show) are all convincingly drawn, particularly Penelope, and by using Satan as narrator, Duncan can cheat and give us insights into what they’re thinking that an ordinary narrator could not give.

Then there’s the writing. I, Lucifer is stylistically brilliant. An early description of New York in summer is breathtakingly good- being both concise and evocative, and the myriad descriptions of London always manage to transport me to the exact area he’s talking about. It’s a superb ventriloquism act, and that Duncan manages to make Satan so likable is no small feat.

Unfortunately, Channel 4 have seen fit to have a stab at adapting this to the big screen. It was initially to star Ewen McGregor, who has thankfully dropped out, and then Daniel Craig (yikes! dreadful) and this casting makes me think that those filming it are going to fuck it up. The other reason that I think they’ll fuck it up, is that it is unfilmable, but if they insist on going through with it, then I suggest Purefoy for the title role. The latest update has I, Lucifer being released in 2011, and I’m holding out no hope for it at all.

Overall, I recommend this book. I’ve now bought 4 copies of it due to various people borrowing and not returning it, and am shortly to purchase copy number 5. It’s a book that I come back to every so often and probably my favourite novel of the 21st Century. Find it, read it and love it- I, Lucifer is simply magnificent.

Until next time,


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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

56 responses to “The Underrated: I, Lucifer”

  1. Jarv says :

    Righto. Sorry about the lack of quotes. Hope I managed to get the gist across.

  2. kloipy says :

    this is a great book review Jarv. Gives us why you like it and no bullshit. Sounds like a good read, think I’ll be stopping at Borders this week

    • Jarv says :

      Cheers Kloipy

      Honestly, any book that describes paedophilia as Satan’s “flexible yield investment” is fucking genius.

      Mrs. Jarv has found my copy (too late, I’m out of SATC) so I’ll be updating this later with the description of Manhatten.

  3. DocPazuzu says :

    “Find it, read it and love it”

    Will do, ASAP. Great review.

    • Jarv says :

      Cheers Doc.

      This is also a surprisingly touching book. It’s really a first class effort from someone I’m thoroughly jealous of.

  4. Droid says :

    Nice one. I’ll be reading this at some stage in the near future.

  5. koutchboom says :

    You’ve been going on and on about this book for ages I really want to read it, if I could just break away from comics for one minute!!!

    I’m pretty slow when it comes to reading books you should see the pile of comics I amassed while spending all my time reading Under The Dome. I will read this one day though.

    • Jarv says :

      I know. I finally went out last week and purchased copy number 4.

    • kloipy says :

      Koutch, I just finished Under the Dome about a week ago, hoping to put my thoughts to a review here soon.

      • koutchboom says :

        Cool can’t wait. Great book and the longest book I ever read. Though the way it’s laid out, its probably 200 pages shorter then it actually is.

      • kloipy says :

        I think IT and The Stand are longer than UTD. But I’ll let you know ahead of time that I loved it

      • koutchboom says :

        Maybe, I haven’t read those. Under the Dome was actually my first King book.

  6. Jarv says :

    Oh yes, and chocolate sweetie to anyone that tries the cocktail in this- the Lucifer Rising:

    1 part Tequila
    1 part Vodka
    1 part Grand marnier
    2 parts Orange juice
    1/2 part Tomato juice
    1 part Dry sherry
    1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
    dash of Tabasco sauce
    1 Chilli.
    2 lines of cocaine.

  7. Jarv says :

    I’ve also found some quotes from it:

    “The rich, the famous, the big-dicked, the slim-and-gorgeous- they incite an envy so urgent that you can escape it only by translating it into pity. People who live like that never end up happy. Yes, you’re right. But neither do you.”

    He was Everything, in fact, apart from which he hath created. You could feel His relief: I’m God. Phew. Fucking knew it.

    The first thing to say about Eve is that she was a big improvement on the Adam design, or that Adam was an extremely misguided variation on the Eve design. (Consider testicles. Two concentrated nuclei of absolute vulnerability. Where? Dangling between the legs. I rest my case.)

    There’s a common misconception about me. It’s slander spread by the Church, namely that if you make a deal with me, I’ll cheat you. Poppycock, of course. I never cheat. Never have to. Ask Robert Johnson. Ask Jimmy Page. Human are so deaf and blind to their own language’s ambiguities, they concoct their wishes in terms so permeable that I can grant them in a way they never imagined. I want to be as rich as my father. Fair enough. Nelchael crashes the markets, Dad’s bankrupt, and thanks for the soul, brother. –

    Fucking wonderful stuff.

  8. xiphos0311 says :

    This sounds very interesting I’ll have to get a copy soon. Thanks for the heads up.

    • Jarv says :

      Give it a shot- there are bits of it I haven’t gone into (the disastrous LSD driven encounter with a rent boy, for example, or the increasing intrusion of Gunn into Lucifer’s plans)- there’s so much to it, and I could go on and on forever.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        I read the review about the book when it came out and I thought that sounds like it might be interesting. I made a mental note to take a look at it. Bad mistake on my part since I’m a dope I promptly forgot about it until you wrote this. So thanks.

      • Jarv says :

        No worries.

        The dude deserves to make it huge- Love Remains and Hope are also brilliant (if a bit depressing).

        Weathercock is crap, and I’m yet to read his 2 most recent.

  9. kloipy says :

    Jarv- on the other side of this, have you ever read C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Screwtape Letters”. It’s about 2 demons writing letters to each other talking about humans. It’s a good look into the nature of evil. Not overly religous but a very interesting read. Alas, I don’t remember any wanking in it

  10. Droid says :

    Needed more drugs and hookers.

    Drugs and hookers would pretty much improve anything. Except maybe Amsterdam.

  11. kloipy says :

    Virginia Wolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse for Drugs and Hookers”

  12. Hawaiian Organ Donor says :

    OK, I read the review and all the comments. And the only thing I’m taking away from it is that you’re going to be forced to watch Sex and the City 2?

    Say it ain’t so.

    • Jarv says :

      Not any more. Mrs. Jarv’s carelessness in losing my most recent copy of this book has given me an Inde-fucking-structible get out of jail free card.

      • Hawaiian Organ Donor says :

        What I find troubling is that after that monstrously offensive piece of shit movie that was the first one, Mrs. Jarv still has the desire to see the follow up. I’d rather be caught dead in a closet with a rope around my sack and a garbage bag full of kiddie porn than be seen at a screening of SATC2.

      • Jarv says :

        I don’t give a shit about it- they make me vomit, but that’s the price that I gladly pay to be with Mrs. Jarv, who is far, far nicer than me. Also, I put on a lot of shit that she can’t bear (sport). I put my foot down over this one, but luckily for me, she left I, Lucifer on the tube.

        Also, mate, Mrs. Jarv has asked me to say that she is really, really, really grateful for Home for the Holidays and is looking forward to her yearly watch of it at Thanksgiving.

        Thanks. Hope shit is looking up for you now.

      • Jarv says :

        Also, I drank the Whisky. Sorry. When I go back to Scotland I’ll sort it out.

        Yes, I am degenerate.

  13. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    just ordered a copy based on this review. Good show. Dolarsd to donuts the big D says screw it to redemption and either stays on earth in human form, or heads off back to Hell.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yo Echo have you seen The Rocket? I feel like I need to do an under rated again for that movie since no one noticed it.

  14. yJarv says :

    I won’t tell you, but it is superb.

  15. ThereWolf says :

    Haven’t read a book in ages. This sounds like the one.

    Cheers, Jarv.

  16. Lb says :

    Dear jarv.
    I hate your guts.
    You are now Satan.
    I suppose I owe you a thanks.

  17. M. Blitz says :

    A little late with this but, damn, you really love this book don’t you. Ya know, I’ve looked for this a few times since you first recommended it, and I’ve never seen a single used copy of it in any of the bookstores I’ve perused and/or worked at since then.

    I guess folks hang onto their copies as best they can, another point in its favor (to add onto the heap of points its already got courtesy of your review). I will keep looking.

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